Ron Palillo, the actor who played Arnold Horshack on the 1970’s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter,” died Tuesday morning at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., from an apparent heart attack. He was 63.
And for many of his fans, Palillo’s death marks the first time they are learning that he was gay — Palillo is survived by his partner of 41 years, Joseph Gramm.
Palillo was born in Cheshire, Conn., and studied theater at the University of Connecticut, where he later returned as an adjunct professor.
His career took off in 1975 with “Kotter,” based on comedian Gabrial Kaplan’s own high school days in Brooklyn — the show was a ratings success and pop cultural phenomenon, injecting phrases such as “Up your nose with a rubber hose” into the mainstream and propelling co-star John Travolta to stardom.
Pallilo’s character “Horshack” become known for a trademark laugh and emphatic “Ooh Ooh Ohh!” when he wanted to be called on in class.
Palillo was also an artist and a playwright. He illustrated for two children’s books — “The Red Wings of Christmas” and “A Gift for the Contessa” — and his play, “The Lost Boy,” about the true-life story of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, was was produced in New York in 2005.
Palillo also taught at G-Star School Of The Arts for Motion Pictures and Broadcasting in Palm Springs, Fla.
In addition to his longtime partner, Palillo is survived by his sister Ann, who lives in Connecticut, and brothers Richard and Bobby, of Florida.